BronzinoAgnolo di Cosimo, called Il Bronzino, perhaps on account of his dark auburn hair or a bronze complexion, was the last great painter of the Florentine Renaissance. He was born on 17 November 1503 in Monticelli, a suburb of Florence near the Porta San Frediano, of ‘honest, humble and poor parents’. His father was a butcher. According to Vasari, his first master was an unnamed hack painter, and he was later briefly a pupil of Raffaellino del Garbo. At the age of about eleven or twelve, he entered the studio of Jacopo Pontormo, becoming practically his adopted son. Slow to emerge as an independent artist, he stayed with Pontormo until his mid-twenties, assisting him at the Certosa del Galluzzo (1522-25) and Santa Felicita (1526-28).
After the Siege of Florence ended in August 1530 Bronzino went to Pesaro, where he stayed until 1532 or early 1533 working in the service of Francesco della Rovere on portraits and on frescoes in the Villa Imperiale. He returned to Florence at Pontormo’s request to work at the Medici villa at Poggio a Caiano. He also worked with Pontormo at the Medici villas at Careggi (1535-36) and at Castello (1538-40), but their decorations have completely vanished. He became court painter to Cosimo I de’ Medici after the Duke’s marriage to Eleonora of Toledo in 1539, receiving from 1547 an annual salary of 150 scudi. He immediately started work on the Duchess’s chapel in the Palazzo Vecchio, his masterpiece (completed 1564). There are many portraits of the Duke and Duchess and their children (some still housed in the Tribuna of the Uffizi), and numerous workshop replicas were sent abroad as presents to other courts. He visited Rome, probably briefly, in 1548. He died, aged sixty-nine, on 23 November 1572 in the house of his favourite pupil Alessandro Allori on Corso Adimari, and was buried in San Cristoforo.
Bronzino’s early works have often been mistaken for Pontormo’s. By the mid-1530s, he was developing his own style – harder, with more sculptural modelling and monumental forms, and with a smooth brilliance of finish. His religious paintings and mythologies epitomize the high Mannerist style in their preoccupation with the muscular male nude, conception of coldly classical beauty, and vivid colouring; they were long unfashionable (Ruskin called the Descent into Limbo a ‘heap of cumbrous nothingness and sickening offensiveness’) but now attract greater interest. His elegant and restrained portraits have always been greatly admired. They influenced the French Neoclassical painter Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, who had the opportunity to study Bronzino's works in Paris, Rome and Florence (where he lived for some years). Bronzino also made designs for Duke Cosimo’s new tapestry factory (including most of the cartoons for the huge Story of Joseph cycle, now divided between the Palazzo Vecchio and the Palazzo del Quirinale in Rome). He was a prolific poet and founder member of the Accademia degli Umidi, the Florentine literary academy.
Baltimore. Walters Art Gallery.
Portrait of a Baby Boy. Wood, 34 x 26.
This little picture of a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes (like the infant Jesus) has been dated about 1550 on stylistic grounds, and could conceivably represent either Duke Cosimo’s third son Garzia (born 1547) or his fourth son Ferdinando (born 1549). It has been cut down on all four sides and may have been part of a larger composition. Acquired by Henry Walters in 1909 from the art historian Bernard Berenson. Sometimes ascribed to Bronzino’s workshop.
*Portrait of Ugolino Martelli. Wood, 105 x 85.
Martelli is seated in the courtyard of his Florentine palazzo. (The house, situated on the modern Via Ferdinando Zannetti, is now a public museum.) His finger is on a passage, in Greek, from Homer’s Illiad (Book IX: 1-14); he holds a volume by Pietro Bembo on his knee, and one by Virgil (with the inscription ‘Maro’) is on the table. In the background is a marble statue, formerly attributed to Donatello, of David. (The statue, now attributed to Antonio or Bernardo Rossellino, remained in the palazzo until 1916 and is now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington.) The portrait was probably painted by 12 November 1537, when Martelli, who was born in 1519 and appears as a youth in his late teens, left Florence for Padua. It was acquired by Wilhelm Bode for the Berlin museums in 1878 from the Palazzo Strozzi.
*Portrait of Eleonora of Toledo. Wood, 85 x 42.
Eleonora (born 1519/22) was the sixth child and second daughter of Don Pedro di Alvarez di Toledo, brother of the powerful Duke of Alba and the Spanish Viceroy of Naples under Charles V. She was noticed by the young Cosimo de’ Medici when he visited Naples as a seventeen-year old with his cousin Alessandro, and they were married in 1539. They had five children annually from 1540 and eleven altogether (three of whom died in infancy). Pious and haughty, Eleonora later led a secluded life in the Palazzo Vecchio. She began to show signs of tuberculosis from the early 1550s and died in her early forties of malaria in Pisa in December 1562. This portrait, one of several of Eleonora by Bronzino, is possibly one mentioned in a letter of 21 December 1549. She is still sumptuously dressed; but, in comparison with the famous portrait in the Uffizi, she appears prematurely aged, her face thin and perhaps already tubercular. Acquired in Florence in 1890. There are several replicas by Bronzino’s studio, including one (half-length) in the National Gallery of Art, Washington.
Portrait of a Youth with a Hat (no. S.2). Wood, 58 x 47.
The youth, in a black cap, stands behind a table covered with a green cloth and turns the pages of a book containing numbers in squares. One of a number of half-length portraits of youths painted by Bronzino in the 1540s and 1550s. Donated in 1904 by the Berlin cotton merchant and philanthropist Henri James Simon.
Portrait of a Youth (no. 338). Wood, 86 x 67.
The youth, sitting on a stone bench, holds a letter. The attribution has been doubted (eg. by Longhi, who ascribed the portrait to Giorgio Vasari). From the huge collection amassed by the English timber merchant Edward Solly during the Napoleonic Wars and sold to the King of Prussia in 1821.
Besançon. Musée des Beaux-Arts.
*Deposition. Wood, 226 x 173.
The dead Christ is seated across the Virgin's knees; John the Evangelist supports his back and Mary Magdalene his feet. Instruments of the Passion appear throughout the picture. The crown of thorns lies in the left foreground. A youth at the left edge holds the chalice. To the right, Veronica holds up her veil, Nicodemus cradles a large blue ewer with embalming oils, and Joseph of Arimathea presses the nails to his heart and holds the pincers in his left hand. Five boy angels overhead display the column, spear, sponge and cross.
Signed on the rock, lower right. This picture, painted in 1543-45, was originally intended as the altarpiece for Eleonora of Toledo’s chapel in the Palazzo Vecchio. Immediately after its completion, it was given by Cosimo I to Nicholas Perrenot de Granvelle, minister of Emperor Charles V, whose home was Besançon. Bronzino painted (by 1553) a replica for the chapel, which is still in situ. Bronzino may have followed a modello by Baccio Bandinelli, who had tried to secure the commission for himself. The three bearded men on the right have the character of portraits. Janet Cox-Rearick (1993) thought they might represent Bronzino himself, his master Pontormo and Baccio Bandinelli, while Elizabeth Pillod (2001) identified them, quite differently, as the woodcarver Giovambattista del Tasso, Duke Cosimo’s financial administrator Francesco di Ser Jacopo and the sculptor and architect Niccolò Tribolo.
The altarpiece had wings representing Saint John the Baptist (now in the Getty Museum, Los Angeles) and Saint Cosmas (identified recently with a panel, cut down to half-length, in a private collection). When the Deposition was included in the Cinquecento exhibition held in 2017-18 at the Palazzo Strozzi, it returned to Florence for the first time in 472 years.
Budapest. Museum of Fine Arts.
Adoration of the Shepherds. Wood, 65 x 47.
Five winged putti hover over the scene and, in the right distance, the angel brings the good news to the shepherds. Signed bottom left. This smallish panel, brightly coloured and with an enamel-like finish, is a comparatively early work (about 1535-40). It is recorded by Vasari as a picture of ‘incomparable beauty’ in the possession of Filippo d’Averardo Salviati. Salviati, from the wealthy Florentine banking family, also owned a Madonna by Fra Bartolommeo (probably the Adoration of the Child now in the National Gallery, London). Bronzino's picture evidently enjoyed some early fame as it was engraved by Giorgio Ghisi (Il Mantovano) in 1553 and Battista Cavalieri in 1565. It was acquired by the Hungarian State in 1871 with the great collection of Prince Nikolaus Esterházy III.
Venus and Cupid. Wood, 192 x 142.
Signed right, on the vase. The picture is similar in theme to the famous picture in London, but less complicated in composition. Venus leans on a vase of roses. The arrow in her hand (pointing downwards) may allude to carnal love, while the arrow held by Cupid (pointing upwards) may allude to heavenly love. In the left background, a hideous figure with snakes in its hair could represent Jealousy or Envy. In the right foreground, a kneeling child crowns another child with flowers. Beside them, two masks, one with a satyr’s face. The painting, which does not appear to have been mentioned by Vasari or other early writers, probably dates from around 1550. Presented to the museum by Count István Keglevich in 1863. Somewhat damaged: partly repainted in 1958, and restored again for the Bronzino exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, in 2010-11, when old, darkened repaint was removed. Among numerous pentimenti revealed by infrared analysis, there was originally a leering satyr in the bottom right corner, where the two children are now playing with the garland.
Cleveland (Ohio). Museum of Art.
Young Lady with a Glove. Wood, 60 x 49.
She wears a black silk dress with an embroidered white partlet, and presses her right hand, holding a glove, to her heart. Details – such as the gems and silver threads adorning the elaborately dressed hair, the geometric embroidery pattern on the partlet, the stitching on the cuff, and the goldwork on the necklace and choker – are rendered with extraordinary care. The portrait may date from around 1550. It has featured only rarely in the Bronzino literature. Until 1962, it was in a private collection at Frankfurt. Acquired by the museum in 1972 from the Koetser Gallery.
Detroit. Institute of Arts.
Portrait of a Young Woman (Costanza da Sommaia?). Wood, 43 x 29.
There are no early references to this small portrait bust, which was sold in 1915 with Earl Sydney’s collection and acquired by the Institute in 1935 from Lilenfeld Galleries of New York. The identification of the sitter as Costanza da Sommaia rests on a resemblance to a young woman included as a spectator in Bronzino’s large altarpiece of Christ in Limbo. Vasari says that the altarpiece (painted in 1552 for a chapel in the church of Santa Croce and now in the Santa Croce Museum) included a portrait of Costanza, who was the wife of Giovan Battista Doni.
Eleonora of Toledo and Her Son. Wood, 122 x 100.
A replica of the famous painting in the Uffizi. The figures are exactly the same size as in the original, suggesting that the replica was made with the aid of a cartoon. The faces and hands may have been painted by Bronzino himself, but the rest of the painting appears to have been done by workshop assistants. The background (painted in smalt blue rather than expensive ultramarine) has discoloured to a grey-green. Once in the Duke of Hamilton’s collection at Glasgow, the painting was acquired by Ralph Harman Booth in 1913 and bequeathed by his widow to the Institute in 1942 (having been on loan there since 1923).
*Pietà. Wood, 105 x 100.
An early work, formerly attributed to Pontormo. Bronzino’s signature came to light during restoration in 1989. Recently discovered documents show that the picture was commissioned by Lorenzo d’Antonio di Bernardo di Giovanni Cambi, a wealthy Florentine banker with close links with the Medici, for his family altar in the church of Santa Trinita. Payments to Bronzino, totalling 63 lire and ten bushels of grain, were made between 24 July and 10 October 1529. In 1552 the Cambi’s rights to their altar, which stood against the entrance wall of the church, were sold, and the picture was moved to the first right-hand pier of the nave, where it was described by Vasari. It was taken to the Accademia in 1810, and transferred to the Uffizi by 1925. Some elements of the composition, particularly the landscape, seem to derive from Dürer’s woodcuts of the Lamentation. Pontormo seems to have provided drawings for the painting.
*Pygmalion and Galatea. Wood, 81 x 64.
Pygmalion prays to Venus to give life to his beautiful statue of Galatea. His sculptor's tools lie on the ground beside him. The relief on the front of the sacrificial altar depicts Mars and Venus, while the inscription on the scroll on the side reads 'HEU VI VENUS' ('Oh Venus Won'). The picture is mentioned by Vasari as the cover for Pontormo’s portrait of Francesco Guardi as a soldier (sometimes identified with the picture now in the Getty Museum, Los Angeles, though this is somewhat larger), which was painted during the Siege of Florence (1529-30). The cover may have been fitted with hinges, but seems more likely to have slotted into grooves cut in the picture frame. While it appears to have been executed by the young Bronzino, Pontormo may have been responsible for much of the design. The figure of Pygmalion is close to that of St Francis in Pontormo’s Pala Visdomini, while that of Galatea seems to be derived from a drawing by Pontormo. The Pygmalion and Galatea had become separated from the portrait by 1644, when it is recorded in the Barberini collection at Rome. It remained in the Galleria Barberini until 1944, when it was confiscated by Hermann Goering. It was recovered after the War by the 'art spy' Rodolfo Siviero, and came to the Uffizi in 1989 from the Delegazione per le Restituzione.
*Portrait of a Young Man with a Lute. Wood, 94 x 79.
The young musician leans against a table on which there is a cast bronze inkwell in the form of a woman bathing (Venus or Susanna?). He has not been identified. One of the finest of Bronzino’s early portraits, probably painted shortly after his return from Pesaro in 1532-33. The sitter's pose appears to have been influenced by Michelangelo's statue of Giuliano de' Medici at San Lorenzo. First recorded in an Uffizi inventory of 1704. There is a squared drawing for the whole figure at Chatsworth.
*Portrait of Bartolommeo Panciatichi. Wood, 104 x 85.
Bartolommeo Panciatichi (1507-82), merchant, poet and scholar, is portrayed leaning on a marble balustrade against a background of Renaissance architecture. In the bottom right corner, his labrador-like black dog rests its paws and muzzle on a narrow ledge. In a niche to the right is a shield with the Panciatichi coat-of-arms. The portrait probably dates from about 1541 – the year both Bronzino and Panciatichi joined the Accademia degli Umidi. Panciatichi also commissioned Bronzino to paint his wife’s portrait (also in the Uffizi), two Madonnas (one of which is in the Uffizi) and a Crucifixion (recently identified with a picture in the museum at Nice). His family were lords of Pistoia, and he held high offices for the Medici (including ambassador to the French court). But he and his wife were accused of heresy and, after imprisonment and torture, were forced in February 1552 publicly to renounce their heretical beliefs by taking part in a procession through the city, carrying tapers and wearing black gowns and with yellow scarves tied over their mouths.
*Lucrezia Panciatichi. Wood, 104 x 85.
She wears a splendid red dress; one hand is on the arm of the chair and the other in an open book. On her gold chain is the French motto ‘Amore Dure Sans Fin’ (‘love lasts eternally’). Lucrezia di Gismondo Pucci married Bartolommeo Panciatichi in 1534. Her date of birth is unknown, but she appears younger than her husband. The two portraits were praised by Vasari as ‘so natural that they seem truly alive, and nothing is wanting in them save breath’. They had entered the Medici collections by 1704.
Holy Family. Wood, 117 x 89.
Signed bottom left. Presumably one of two ‘large pictures of Our Lady’ noted by Vasari as having been painted by Bronzino for the Florentine aristocrat and poet Bartolommeo Panciatichi, since the flag in the background shows his coat-of-arms. About 1540. Transferred to the Uffizi from the Pitti Palace in 1919.
Portrait of Cosimo I de’ Medici in Armour. Wood, 74 x 58.
Cosimo, born in 1519, was the son of the famous soldier Giovanni delle Bande Nere and a descendent of Cosimo the Elder’s brother Lorenzo. He succeeded Alessandro de’ Medici, who was murdered in 1537, and reigned until 1574, founding the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in 1569. Vasari mentions Bronzino’s portrait of Cosimo (‘at that time a young man, fully clad in bright armour, and with a hand resting upon his helmet’) immediately after his description of the frescoes in the Chapel of Eleonora of Toledo in the Palazzo Vecchio (which date mainly from 1541-43). The suit of steel armour worn by Cosimo in the portrait has been attributed to the Innsbruck court armourer Jörg Seusenhofer and was probably a diplomatic gift from Archduke Ferdinand of Austria. Parts of the armour are preserved in the Castel Sant'Angelo Museum at Rome. More than twenty-five other versions of the portrait, differing only slightly in composition, are known to exist, many of them (including those at the Palazzo Pitti, Sydney, Lucca, Kassel, New York, Toledo, Madrid (Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection), and Rome (Palazzo Ruspigoli)) attributed to Bronzino himself or his studio. There are even more numerous versions of a later portrait mentioned by Vasari of the Duke as a man of forty wearing civilian dress.
**Eleonora of Toledo and Her Son Giovanni. Wood, 115 x 96.
The Duchess is shown, young and serene, sumptuously dressed and adorned with jewels. She is seated on a terrace against a background of glowing ultramarine. A trace of marshy landscape is visible, lower right. Her hand rests on the shoulder of one of her very young sons, whom Vasari identifies as Giovanni. Giovanni, Eleonora's second son, was born in 1543 and died in the same year as his mother. This masterpiece of court portraiture was probably painted around 1545. It came to the Uffizi in 1798 from the Medici villa of La Petraia. The large pomegranate motif on the magnificent dress of white silk, black velvet and gold brocade may allude to Eleonora as a figure of motherhood. (The story, often told, that she was buried in the dress is apocryphal. In fact, her body was clothed in a simpler gown of red satin and velvet – the remains of which were discovered when her tomb was opened in 1857 and are still preserved in the Pitti Palace.) Eleonora's jewellry incorporates Medici devices and emblems and was probably made by Benvenuto Cellini. The long pearl necklace was probably a wedding gift. It included fifty enormous pearls acquired from Venice by Eleonora's mother-in-law Maria Salviati. There is a good replica of the Uffizi portrait in the Detroit Institute of Arts and a variant (half-length, without the boy) in the Wallace Collection, London.
*Portrait of a Medici Princess (no. 1472). Wood, 63 x 48.
The grave little girl in the white dress wears a medallion with a portrait of the young Duke Cosimo around her neck, and is almost certainly one of his daughters. She was once thought to be Maria, the eldest daughter of Cosimo and Eleonora. She was later identified as Cosimo’s illegitimate daughter Bia (or Beatrice), born before his marriage, and accepted by Eleonora ‘without loss of family honour’. Bia is said to have been the delight of the court circle. She died, while still a child, in 1542, and the portrait may be posthumous. A portrait of her by Bronzino is recorded in an inventory of Duke Cosimo’s Guardaroba (repository of works of art) in the Palazzo Vecchio. Cosimo’s other daughters were Isabella, who was born in 1542 and married Paolo Orsini, Prince of Bracciano, and Lucrezia, who was born in 1545 and married Alfonso, the eldest son of Ercole II, Duke of Ferrara.
*Portrait of a Medici Princess (no. 1572). Wood, 52 x 38.
Usually identified as the portrait of ‘the Lady Donna Maria, a very tall and truly beautiful girl’ recorded by Vasari in Duke Cosimo’s Guardaroba. Maria, Cosimo’s eldest daughter, was born in 1540. She was betrothed to Alfonso, Prince of Ferrara, but died unmarried in 1557 at the age of only sixteen. Possibly painted in Pisa in 1551, when Bronzino painted a series of portraits of Medici children.
*Portrait of Don Giovanni (Garzia?) de’ Medici. Wood, 58 x 45.
The bright, plump child of about eighteen months, laughing and showing two milk teeth, wears a piece of coral around his neck to ward off evil and holds a goldfinch in his right hand. He has been identified either as Giovanni (born 1543), second son of Cosimo), or Garzia (born 1547), the third son. The two brothers died, along with their mother, the Duchess Eleonora, of malaria within a single month in 1562 on a trip to Pisa.
Portrait of Don Francesco de’ Medici. Wood, 58 x 41.
The sitter, a boy of about ten years of age holding a book in both hands, was traditionally identified as Don Ferdinando but is now thought to be Don Francesco. Francesco (born 1541) was Cosimo’s eldest son. As the second Grand Duke, he was a debauched and cruel ruler from 1574 to 1587. Possibly painted in Pisa in 1551.
*Portrait of a Young Girl with a Book (no. 770). Wood, 58 x 46.
The unknown young girl, in a blue-grey dress with puffed sleeves, a double chain of pearls around her neck, wears a sombre expression. She holds a green missal in her right hand. The portrait may date from the mid-1540s. It was transferred to the Uffizi from the Medici villa at Poggia Imperiale in 1773.
*The Dwarf Morgante. Canvas, 150 x 98.
Morgante was Duke Cosimo’s court dwarf. There is a famous and popular marble statue of him riding a tortoise by Valerio Cioli in the Boboli Gardens (the Fountain of Bacchus) and a small bronze of him riding a dragon by Giovanni Bologna in the Bargello. Bronzino’s fascinating and disturbing portrait is double-sided, and was probably intended to argue the case for painting in the paragone debate then flourishing on the relative merits of painting and sculpture. It would presumably have been placed in the centre of a room on a pedestal, so that it could be viewed like a statue from either side. It portrays Morgante, full-length and about life-size, as a nocturnal hunter, with an owl trained to catch small birds. One side shows him from the front, completely naked apart from a large moth concealing his genitals. The other side shows him from the back, returning from the hunt with the birds he has bagged. Recorded in a Medici inventory of 1553, and probably painted shortly before. At some later date, probably in the eighteenth century, the front view of Morgante was transformed into a Bacchus, crowned with vine leaves, a cup in his hand and vines covering his nakedness. In the nineteenth century, the picture was at the villa of Poggio Imperiale. Considerably damaged, it was in storage for much of the twentieth century. Restored in 1987-93 and again for the 2010-11 Bronzino exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi. The canvas support, which had badly rotted, has been strengthened and the old overpaint removed.
Allegory. Copper, 40 x 30.
Happiness is enthroned in the centre, holding a caduceus (Roman herald’s wand symbolising peace) and a cornucopia filled with fruit; Justice is on the left with sword and scales; and Fortune is lower right leaning on her wheel. Probably the ‘small picture with small figures that has no equal’ mentioned by Vasari as painted for Don Ferdinando de’ Medici just a few months before the publication of the second edition of the Lives in 1568.
Annunciation. Wood, 57 x 44.
Until recently this little panel hung in the Tribuna with an attribution (recorded in Borghini’s Il Riposo of 1584) to the obscure late sixteenth-century painter Giovanni Bizzelli. It is currently labelled as ‘attributed to Bronzino’ and may date from about 1540-41. Transferred to the Uffizi from the Pitti Palace in 1773.
Portrait of a Woman in Mourning. Wood, 121 x 95.
Once supposed to be a portrait of Vittoria Colonna. Dated 1559 in a largely indecipherable inscription on the arm of the chair. A statuette of Rachel (representing the Contemplative Life) from Michelangelo’s Julius tomb stands on the table. On the edge of the table are small figures in marquetry from the Medici Chapel. From the collection of Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici. The attribution (recorded in an inventory of 1675) has recently been questioned – with Costamagna and Langton (1989) ascribing the portrait to Alessandro Allori and Pilliod (2001) tentatively identifying it as the portrait of Ortensia Montauto (widow of Tommaso de’ Bardi) mentioned by Borghini as painted by Allori in Rome.
Deposition. Wood, 349 x 254.
In the background, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus take Christ's body down from the cross after the Crucifixion. The two thieves hang dead at the sides, while a crowd of pharisees and others engages in vigorous debate. In the foreground, the dead Christ is mourned by John the Evangelist (who holds Christ's body between his knees), the Virgin Mary (who swoons as she holds his arm), Mary Magdalene (who holds his hand) and the two other Marys (Salome and Cleophas). In the bottom left corner, a young man (Longinus?) holds the spear and sponge.
This huge altarpiece was commissioned by Duke Cosimo for the Osservanti convent at Cosmopoli (now Portoferraio) on the island of Elba. It was started by March 1560 but not delivered until February 1565. Bronzino's signature and the date 1561 were discovered recently on the handle of the large green vase in the bottom left corner. The panel was painted in Florence (apparently in the Biblioteca Laurenziana as there was no workshop large enough to accommodate it) and then transported by boat down the Arno to Pisa and thence by sea to Elba. The group of the kneeling St John supporting the dead Christ seems to have been inspired by a Pietà by Baccio Bandinelli in Santissima Annunziata. The picture was badly damaged in 1817, when 'a zealot ... attempted to clean it by rubbing it with a cloth or straw soaked in lye'. It was later extensively repainted and covered with a toned brownish-yellow varnish that left it very dark. A thorough restoration was carried out in 2003. The fortified town (probably Portoferraio), behind the hill of Golgotha in the upper left distance, was previously lost in the murky background
*Portrait of Luca Martini. Wood, 101 x 79.
Luca Martini was an engineer and favourite of Duke Cosimo. As Ducal Commissioner at Pisa, he designed a scheme for draining the neighbouring marshland. The map in front of him shows the Pisa canal system. Martini was a close friend of Bronzino, who wrote several sonnets lamenting his death of malaria in 1561. The portrait was probably painted in Pisa in the early or mid-1550s. It entered the Pitti Palace in 1675 with the collection of Cardinal Leopardo de’ Medici. Vasari says that Bronzino also painted ‘a very beautiful picture of Our Lady, in which he portrayed Luca with a basket of fruits’ to symbolise his achievement in making the countryside around Pisa fertile. This picture is lost, but a portrait in the gallery at Faenza has sometimes been regarded as a partial copy of it.
*Portrait of Guidobaldo della Rovere. Wood, 114 x 86.
Guidobaldo was the son and heir of Francesco Maria della Rovere, whom he was to succeed as Duke of Urbino in 1538. He is shown, three-quarter length, wearing a splendid suit of dark costume armour with ‘slashed’ gold decoration. His left hand caresses the neck of a hunting mastiff. His right hand rests on a helmet inscribed, in Greek, with the assertive motto: ‘It will certainly be as I have decided’. Another inscription, in Latin, on the red cloth covering the table gives Guidobaldo’s age as eighteen, implying that the portrait was painted in 1531-32. At this time, Bronzino was working on decorations at the Villa Imperale, a country seat of the Duke of Urbino near Pesaro. Vasari says that the painting of the portrait was delayed by Prince Guidobaldo’s insistence that he be portrayed wearing a new suit of armour he had ordered in Lombardy and was late arriving. It is Bronzino’s earliest state portrait. It entered the Medici collections in 1631 with the legacy of Vittoria della Rovere. Though correctly attributed in inventories of the palace in Urbino, it was misattributed after its transfer to Florence – being given to Federico Zuccari and then to Federico Barocci, and later wrongly identified as Pontormo’s portrait, mentioned by Vasari, of Ippolito de’ Medici with his dog. The correct identification was made in 1897 by the German art historian Carl Justi.
Florence. Palazzo Vecchio.
Chapel of Eleonora of Toledo.
The little chapel (less than 5 x 4 metres) is situated in the Quartiere di Eleonora di Toledo, a suite of rooms on the second floor into which Eleonora and her newborn daughter Maria moved in May 1540. Though its decoration was not completed until 1564, the frescoes were largely painted in 1541-43. Only the underpainting seems to be in true fresco, the final layer being added in tempera. Extensive use was made of costly ultramarine, which is very rarely found in fresco painting. On the walls are scenes from the Life of Moses: the Crossing of the Red Sea and Moses appointing Joshua; the Brazen Serpent; Moses striking the Rock; and the Fall of Manna. On the ceiling: St Francis receiving the Stigmata (recalling the name of the Duke’s heir, Francesco); St Jerome in Penitence; St John the Evangelist on Patmos; and St Michael fighting the Devil. The subjects of the frescoes relate to Duke Cosimo’s rule and the Medici dynasty. For example, the Crossing of the Red Sea alludes to Cosimo’s victory over an army raised by anti-Medicean exiles, including Filippo Strozzi, at Montemurlo in July 1537. The Strozzi coat-of-arms, a white crescent on a red ground, appears on a banner among the drowning soldiers. The nude youth standing in the left foreground of the fresco was inspired by the small Roman bronze Idolino (now in the Archaeological Museum, Florence), while the damaged figure at the right edge of a bearded man in a blue cloak is probably a self-portrait.
The chapel, which had fallen in a sorry state of repair, was restored as part of the renovation of the Palazzo Vecchio in 1865, when the capital of Italy was transferred to Florence. The frescoes were restored again in 1885-86, 1909 (when the chapel was opened to the public for the first time), 1949 and 1987.
*Deposition. Wood, 253 x 174.
A signed replica, from Bronzino’s own hand, of the picture presented by Duke Cosimo to Cardinal Granvelle in 1545 and now in the museum at Besançon. It was painted by 1553. The wings (each 152 x 55) were painted later (probably in 1564, when payments are recorded for making and gilding their frames). Eleonora herself chose their subject; she had the original side panels of St John (now in the Getty Museum, Los Angeles) and St Cosmas (a portrait of Duke Cosimo) put into storage and commissioned an Annunciation in their place. The Virgin is a portrait of Eleonora’s first child, Maria, who had died in 1557. In the spandrels of the frame, above the Angel Gabriel and Virgin, are seated figures of King David and the Erythraean Sibyl. The altarpiece was transferred to the Uffizi in 1771 and not returned to its original location until 1909.
Sala dei Duecento.
Story of Joseph. Tapestries.
A set of twenty tapestries illustrating the Story of Joseph was commissioned by Duke Cosimo to hang, from floor to ceiling, around the walls of the room. The Old Testament story, with the betrayal of Joseph by his brothers and his triumphant return to favour in Egypt, was a metaphor for the Medici’s exile and return to power. Bronzino made sixteen of the designs, Pontormo three and Francesco Salviati one. Bronzino was assisted by Raffaellino dal Colle on the cartoons for the main scenes and by Lorenzo di Bastiano Zucchetti and the young Alessandro Allori on the designs for the borders. The sumptuous, gold and silver-threaded tapestries were woven in 1545-53 in the newly founded Medici tapestry factory in Florence by the Netherlandish master weavers Nicolas Karcher and Jan Rost (whose monogram of a chicken roasting on a spit appears on several of the tapestries). In 1882, ten of the tapestries were transferred to the Palazzo del Quirinale, the residence in Rome of the President of the new Italian Republic. The tapestries were only intended to be dispayed on special occasions and were usually kept in storage, rolled up in a dark cupboard. Their almost permanent display since the late nineteenth century has caused their condition to deteriorate – though the tapestries in Florence have generally fared better than those in Rome. After a long period of restoration, all twenty tapestries were displayed together in exhibitions held in 2015 in Rome (Palazzo del Quirinale), Milan (Palazzo Reale) and Florence (Palazzo Vecchio).
None of Bronzino’s final cartoons has survived, but some preliminary drawings are preserved in the Uffizi, Ashmolean (Oxford) and elsewhere.
*Portrait of Laura Battiferri. Wood, 83 x 60.
Laura Battiferri (1523-89) was the second wife of the sculptor and architect Bartolommeo Ammanati, whom she married in 1550. She was a poet, and often exchanged sonnets with Bronzino. The profile view accentuates her long neck and aquiline nose. She wears a velvet dress, with crimson bodice, black puff sleeves and black skirt, and a severe pleated white shirt. A grey-and-white bonnet is pinned to the back of her head, and a transparent veil is draped over her head and shoulders. The open book she elegantly displays is inscribed with two clearly legible sonnets from Petrarch's Canzoniere (64 and 240). This striking portrait probably dates from around the mid-1550s. In the early eighteenth century, it was in the collection of General Francesco Arese at Milan and was described as a portrait by Bronzino of Petrarch’s Laura. The Arese collection was bought by Prince Eugene Beauharnais, and the portrait remained in the Leuchtenberg collection at Munich and St Petersburg until the early twentieth century, when it was bought by the American art historian Charles Loeser, who identified the sitter as Laura Battiferri. He bequeathed his art collection to the City of Florence in 1928. The portrait was restored in 2021, when discoloured old retouchings were removed.
Florence. Palazzo Medici-Ricardi. Medici Museum.
Portrait Miniatures of the Medici. Copper, 15 x 12.
The series of miniatures is described by Vasari: ‘In some small pictures painted on plates of copper, and all the same size, he [Bronzino] painted all the great men of the house of Medici, beginning with Giovanni di Bicci and Cosimo the Elder down to the Queen of France in that line; and in the other, from Lorenzo, brother of Cosimo the Elder, down to Duke Cosimo and his children. The portraits are behind the door of the studio made by Vasari in the apartments of the new rooms in the Ducal Palace’. The miniatures are mainly the work of Bronzino’s studio. Nine (those of Cosimo the Elder, Lorenzo the Magnificent, Giulio de’ Medici, Leo X, Clement VII, Lorenzo Duke of Urbino and the three children of Cosimo, Francesco, Maria and Garzia) are recorded in an inventory of 1553. The others were probably painted in the 1560s. The portrait of Duke Cosimo appears to be by Bronzino himself.
Florence. Casa Buonarroti.
'Noli me Tangere'. Wood, 176 x 135.
One of several painted versions of a cartoon by Michelangelo (now lost). The first version was executed by Pontormo in 1531 for Alfonso d'Avalos, Marchese del Vasto, who wanted it as a gift for his cousin's widow, Vittoria Colonna. Pontormo's original is often now identified with a painting (124 x 95) discovered in 1956 in a private collection at Busto Arsizio (near Milan). The significantly larger painting at the Casa Buonarroti is probably a second version painted for the condottiere Alessandro Vitelli, ruler of Città di Castello and commander of the Imperial garrison at Florence. Vasari says the Vitelli version was painted by Pontormo, and the Casa Buonarroti panel is recorded as a work of Pontormo in 1666, when it entered the Grand-Ducal collections. However, an attribution to the young Bronzino (first suggested in 1952 by Roberto Longhi) is now usually preferred. Transferred to the Casa Buonarroti in 1932 from the Uffizi storerooms, together with another version (possibly a copy painted by Battista Franco for Cosimo I).
Bronzino returned to the Noli me Tangere subject much later in a version, loosely based on Michelangelo's composition, painted around 1561 for the Cavalcanti Chapel in Santo Spirito and now at the Louvre.
Florence. Badia. Chiostro degli Aranci.
Temptation of St Benedict in the Wilderness. Fresco, 220 x 374.
St Benedict throws himself naked on thorn bushes. A Benedictine monk looks on. This damaged frescoed lunette (fourth on the right) is one of twelve in the upper loggia of the cloister illustrating scenes from the Life of St Benedict. The other scenes were painted almost a hundred years earlier, in about 1436-39, by the ‘Master of the Chiostro degli Aranci’ (sometimes identified with an obscure Portuguese artist called Giovanni di Consalvo). The Temptation is one of the first works of Bronzino mentioned by Vasari, and it probably dates from the middle or late 1520s. The figures are very Pontormesque. The fresco was removed from the wall in 1864. (The operation was carried out by Giovanni Secco Suardo, a Lombard specialist in transferring frescoes and panel paintings, as a demonstration of the strappo technique. The technique, distrusted by Florentine restorers of the day, involved removing the paint layer alone by gluing a canvas onto the surface of the paint, peeling the paint off, and then reattaching it to a new canvas support.) The detached fresco was exhibited for a time in the museum at the ex-convent of San Salvi.
Florence. SS. Annunziata.
Resurrection of Christ. Wood, 445 x 280.
The semi-circular chapel (behind the choir on the left) was founded by the brothers Giovanni, Jacopo and Antonio Guadagni. The altarpiece was commissioned, for 100 scudi, on 8 April 1548. It was supposed to be finished in eighteen months but was not completed until 1552 (the date on the sarcophagus). Christ, flanked by two nude angels who had lifted the lid of the tomb, rises towards a host of wingless angels and putti holding wreaths of laurel and olive, palm branches and flowers. Below, the nude Roman soldiers on watch writhe on the ground or flee in panic. Subsequent Florentine altarpieces of the Resurrection by Vasari for Santa Maria Novella (1568) and by Bronzino’s former pupil Santi di Tito for Santa Croce (about 1572-74) drew on Bronzino’s composition. A modello for Bronzino's picture – highly finished in ink and wash over black chalk – is preserved at the Uffizi.
Cappella di San Luca.
Trinity. Detached fresco, 345 x 195.
The chapel was donated in 1562 by the sculptor and architect Fra Giovan Angelo Montorsoli and became the burial plot of many artists, including Pontormo, Cellini and Montorsoli himself. The fresco was commissioned in 1567 from Bronzino and Allori, but not painted until 1571 (the date inscribed lower left). It was once regarded as the last dated work of Bronzino. But, while he contributed to the design, the execution is Allori’s. Detached after flood damage in 1966.
Florence. Santa Croce.
Pietà. Wood, 210 x 85.
The dead Christ, seated on the lid of the sarcophagus, is supported from behind by the Virgin and a muscular putto. One of Bronzino’s very last works – too late to be mentioned in the 1568 edition of Vasari’s Lives. First recorded in 1677 hanging on the third pier on the left side of the nave, above the tomb of Bartolini Baldelli. It was probably commissioned by the previous owner of the tomb, Giovanni Battista della Fonte, for his deceased mother (Lucrezia Deti) and brother (Leonardo della Fonte). Bronzino knew della Fonte through literary circles (they were both members of the Accademia Fiorentina). Transferred in the early twentieth century to the wall of the third bay on the left side of the nave; it now hangs in the fifth bay.
*Christ in Limbo. Wood, 443 x 291.
Signed and dated 1552. Commissioned by Giovanni Zanchini for his chapel on the inner façade of Santa Croce. It was painted in rivalry with Francesco Salviati’s Deposition, commissioned for the Dini Chapel opposite (and also now in the museum). Vasari identifies two of the women present as portraits of Costanza da Sommaia (wife of Giovan Battista Doni) and Camilla Tebaldi del Corno. Among the old men behind Christ are portraits of the artists Pontormo and Bacchiacca, while Moses and Abraham are portraits of Giovan Battista Gelli and Giambullaria (literati in the ducal service). The young man with his arms crossed on his chest, his head under Christ’s elbow, is Alessandro Allori. Criticism of the nude figures caused the picture to be removed in 1821 from its prominent position near the main door of the church to the Uffizi, where it remained for a hundred years. It was severely damaged in the 1966 flood, and subsequently spent many years at the Fortezza da Basso awaiting cleaning and restoration. Treatment was finally completed, with splendid results, and the painting returned to public view in 2006. Since 2014, it has hung with other large sixteenth-century altarpieces in the Cappella Medici. The carved and gilded frame is original and may have been designed by Bronzino himself. The altar step has painted figures of the Cardinal Virtues and scenes of the Supper at Emmaus, Doubting Thomas and Pentecost, which are ascribed to Bronzino. Completely covered in mud after the flood, it was rediscovered only in 2003 in a museum storeroom.
Florence. Santa Felicita. Cappella Capponi.
Evangelists. Wood, 70 in dia.
Bronzino assisted in the decoration of the chapel, which includes Pontormo’s famous altarpiece of the Deposition, in 1526-28. The attribution of the four tondi of Evangelists in the pententives has been much debated. Vasari ascribed three to Pontormo and one to Bronzino in his Life of Pontormo and two to each artist in his Life of Bronzino. In neither case does he specify which tondo or tondi Bronzino painted. These have been variously identified by modern historians, but are now usually thought to be the St Mark and possibly either the St Matthew or the St Luke.
While three of the tondi are well preserved, the St Matthew is almost completely ruined. It was thoroughly repainted in the nineteenth century and heavily restored again in 1935-36. In 1975, unbeknown to most art historians, a modern copy was installed in the chapel in its place. All four tondi were restored for the 2010-11 Bronzino exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi.
Florence. San Lorenzo. Left nave wall.
Martyrdom of St Lawrence. Fresco.
The scene is set in a largely imaginary Roman cityscape. The pagan emperor Decius, enthroned high on the right, orders Lawrence to be roasted alive. The saint reclines rather nonchalantly on his gridiron. Naked torturers feed the fire. Two boy angels descend with a martyr's crown and palm and a golden chalice. The four women below Lawrence's grill represent Fortitude (hugging a column) and Faith, Hope and Charity. The young man with the sword and axe represents Justice. Prudence (gesturing towards his breast) and Temperance (with her vase) are seated on the stone bench to the right. The strangely contorted, seated nude male figure in the bottom right corner represents a River God (Tiber). At the left edge of the fresco, under the statue of Mercury, there are portraits of Bronzino, Alessandro Allori and Pontormo. The head of the statue of Hercules, behind the emperor, seems to be a likeness of Duke Cosimo.
On 11 February 1565 Cosimo I commissioned the ageing Bronzino to paint frescoes on either side of the nave with scenes from the Life of St Lawrence. The huge Martyrdom, on the left side, is Bronzino's largest single work. It took four years to paint and was unveiled on St Lawrence's feast day, 10 April 1569. It was almost the last work of the artist, who died before starting the fresco projected for the other side. The general composition may have been inspired by a print engraved in about 1525 by Marcantonio Raimondi from a design by Baccio Bandinelli. As in all Bronzino’s late figure paintings, the influence of Michelangelo’s Last Judgement is patent (though Bronzino’s muscular nudes possess none of the tremendous energy and emotional anguish of Michelangelo’s). Previously very dirty, the fresco was restored in 1984.
The frescoes of scenes from the Old Testament by Pontormo and Bronzino in the choir of the church (1546-58) were all destroyed during building work in 1738-42.
Florence. Santa Maria Novella. Gaddi Chapl (left transept).
Raising of the Daughter of Jairus. Canvas, 425 x 280.
The New Testament subject is rare in Renaissance art. Jairus, leader of a synagogue in Galilee, appealed to Christ to heal his twelve-year old daughter, who lay dying. Christ took the girl's hand, and immediately she got up and walked (Mark 5: 21-43). The chapel was acquired by Niccolò di Sinibaldo Gaddi in 1566. According to Borghini (Il Riposo (1584)), the altarpiece was Bronzino’s last work. It was executed with the assistance of Alessandro Allori (who probably painted the foreground still-life of pot, book and candles, and was responsible for the frescoed Virtues and scenes from the Life of St Jerome on the ceiling of the chapel).
Florence. Santa Maria Regina della Pace.
Immaculate Conception. Wood, 502 x 291.
The Trinity of God the Father (holding a sceptre and globe), the Son (crowning the Virgin with a golden coronet) and Holy Spirit (hovering as a dove in a blaze of divine light) appear in heaven. The youthful Virgin stands on a cloud above a crowd of patriarchs and saints, including the naked Adam and Eve (accompanied by a skeleton representing the death they had brought into the world), Moses (with a tablet of stone), King David (perhaps a likeness of Duke Cosimo), John the Baptist (pointing to the Virgin), a Franciscan friar (perhaps Duns Scotus) and two bishop saints (perhaps Augustine and Ambrose). This huge altarpiece is among Bronzino's very last works. It was commissioned for Santissima Concezione – a church and Benedictine convent on Via della Scala founded by Duke Cosimo in 1563. The picture was left unfinished at Bronzino's death in 1572 and partly completed by his workshop. (Had the picture been completely finished, there would presumably have been inscriptions on the books held by the saints and scrolls held by the angels.) After the convent was closed in 1808, the picture was placed in the Uffizi storerooms. It subsequently disappeared from view and was assumed lost. It was rediscovered in Santa Maria Regina della Pace – a post-war church in a northern suburb of Florence – by Luciano Berti in 1952. It remained little known until 2017, when it was included in the Cinquecento exhibition held at the Palazzo Strozzi. Previously exceedingly dirty, it was restored for the exhibition.
Florence (near). Certosa del Galuzzo. Chiostro Grande.
Man of Sorrows; Martyrdom of St Lawrence. Frescoed lunettes, 100 x 240.
These two damaged and repainted lunettes, above the door leading to the cloister, are described by Vasari as Bronzino’s first notable works. They were painted in 1523-6, after the twenty-year old accompanied Pontormo to the Certosa to escape the plague in Florence. Pontormo appears to have provided his young pupil with drawings for at least one of the lunettes. There are preparatory studies for the figure of St Lawrence in the Uffizi (attributed to Pontormo) and the Getty Museum (ascribed to either Pontormo or Bronzino).
*Portrait of Lady with Dog (Francesca or Maria Salviati?). Wood, 89 x 70.
The sumptuous red dress and jewels speak of the sitter's wealth, the rosary wound round her right wrist declares her piety, and the books resting on the ledge behind allude to her learning and love of poetry. The spaniel puppy on her lap could be a symbol of marital fidelity. This superb portrait may date from the early 1530s. It has been identified with a picture listed in a 1612 inventory of the Riccardi collection at the Palazzo di Valfonda in Florence (‘a portrait from the hand of Jacopo Pontormo representing a lady with a dog’). It left Florence at the beginning of the nineteenth century and passed through various collections (Le Brun, Fesch and Maitland) before entering the Frankfurt Gallery in 1882 as a work of Bronzino. A reattribution to Pontormo was made by Berenson (1896) and was generally accepted for a long time. It is retained in Rudolf Hiller von Gaertringen’s 2004 catalogue of the Tuscan paintings at Frankfurt. Costamagna (1994) has suggested that the sitter might be Francesca Salviati, whose heraldic family colours were red and white. Francesca Salviati was a granddaughter of Lorenzo the Magnificent, sister of Maria Salviati and Duke Cosimo's aunt. She married her cousin Ottaviano de' Medici in 1533 – the possible date of the portrait. A rival theory (advanced by Robert B. Simon in the 2013 conference volume Agnolo Bronzino: Medici Court Artist in Context) is that the portrait is earlier than usually supposed and represents Maria Salviati before she was widowed in November 1526.
Kansas City. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
*Portrait of a Young Man. Wood, 83 x 66.
His hands rest on the golden hilt of his sword. His hat is decorated with an ostrich plume. His doublet, originally violet, has darkened almost to black. There are no early references to this portrait, which is first recorded in the nineteenth century in the Palazzo Mozzi at Florence and was acquired by the museum in 1949. It is commonly dated between 1550 and 1555. X-rays have revealed a change of mind about the costume of the sitter, who was originally depicted bare-headed, wearing armour and holding a shield. A meticulous study in black chalk for the head is preserved in the Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
Portrait of Cosimo I in Armour. Wood, 94 x 65.
One of the best of many versions. It must have been painted in or after 1546, since Cosimo wears the Order of the Golden Fleece awarded to him in that year by Emperor Charles V. It is three-quarter length, whereas the version in the Uffizi (possibly the original) is half-length. Acquired by the Berlin Museum in 1821 (as by Giorgio Vasari); transferred to Kassel in 1904.
London. National Gallery.
*Allegory. Wood, 146 x 116.
Venus, holding Cupid’s arrow in one hand and Paris’s golden apple in the other, turns to kiss Cupid. Behind them is Time with the hourglass on his shoulders. The identification of the other figures is less certain: Vasari calls them Pleasure (presumably the girl with a serpent’s body who offers a honey-comb in her hand), Jest or Folly (the naked boy, shackled by the ankle, who has trodden on thorns and prepares to throw roses), Fraud (the woman, top left, wearing a mask), and Jealousy (the man tearing his hair, recently reinterpreted as the personification of Syphilis). Apart from his Medici portraits, this icily erotic picture is Bronzino’s best-known work. It was probably painted in about 1545, and according to Vasari was sent to Francis I of France. It was bought by the National Gallery with the Beaucousin collection, Paris, in 1860. Immediately after its acquisition, some quite radical alterations were made to the picture on the instruction of the Director, Sir Charles Eastlake. A restorer (Raffaele Pinti) overpainted Venus's tongue and nipples and added bits of drapery and leaves across Venus’s lap and Cupid’s buttocks. These prudish additions were removed in a cleaning of 1958. The painting had to be restored in 2003 after being punched several times by a visitor.
Madonna and Child, the Baptist and St Elizabeth (?). Wood, 101 x 81.
The Child holds a garland of roses and spring flowers in his right hand and a slender reed cross, which he has taken from the little St John, in his left. St John offers him a bunch of wild strawberries and holds a baptismal bowl in his other hand. The elderly saint is sometimes identified as Anne, but may be Elizabeth, looking lovingly down on her son. The painting, which is somewhat damaged and retouched, is close in style to the frescoes in the Chapel of Eleonora of Toledo and may date from around 1540. Its provenance can be traced back only to 1914, when it was sold at Christie’s as by Perino del Vaga. Bequeathed to the National Gallery in 1941 by Sir Lionel Faudel-Phillips. Another version (virtually identical in size and composition but more brilliantly coloured) was acquired by the Getty Museum, Los Angeles, in 2019.
Portrait of Piero de’ Medici. Wood, 58 x 45.
The subject (‘the Gouty’) was the son of Cosimo the Elder and father of Lorenzo the Magnificent. He ruled Florence from 1464 to 1469. The posthumous portrait was probably based on a marble bust by Mino da Fiesole (now in the Bargello). It is likely to have been executed, in part at least, by Bronzino’s workshop. From the Tassi collection, Florence. Bequeathed to the National Gallery by Sir W. R. Drake in 1891.
Portrait of a Young Man. Wood, 75 x 58.
The young sitter – dressed in black and holding a blank notebook on the table in front of him – has not been definitely identified; once thought to be Luigi Gonzaga, he could be one of the sons of Cosimo de’ Medici. Behind the pink curtain on the left is a statuette of Bacchus with a satyr. This fine portrait may date from the early 1550s. Previously in the collection of Viscountess Mersey at Bignor Park at Pulborough in Sussex. On long-term loan to the National Gallery from an anonymous private collection since 1979.
Madonna and Child and the Infant St John (no. 6375). Wood, 81 x 58.
Rather worn and restored. Another, better-preserved version has come to light recently in a private collection in Milan, which (though inscribed ‘del Pontormo’ on the back) is attributed by Janet Cox-Rearick and Philippe Costamagna (Apollo, 2004) to Bronzino as a very early work painted in Pontormo’s studio. The London version may be an autograph replica, Cox-Rearick and Costamagna suggest. It was ascribed to Pontormo when it was acquired by the National Gallery in 1966 but later catalogued as ‘Florentine School’ (1975) and as ‘by a follower of Pontormo, probably 1560s’ (1995). First recorded in a 1693 Borghese inventory as a work of Andrea del Sarto, it was acquired by the Duke of Northumberland in 1856 with the Camuccini collection. Bought by the National Gallery after an export licence to Berlin had been refused. A third, rather damaged, version in the Chicago Art Institute has been ascribed to Maso da Friano.
Portrait of Cosimo I in a Doublet. Wood, 21 x 17.
A replica, not necessarily from Bronzino’s studio, of an official portrait painted by Bronzino towards 1560. There are other versions in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, the Pitti Palace in Florence, the Borghese Gallery in Rome, the Galleria Sabauda in Turin, and many other museums and private collections. Presented by Queen Victoria in 1863.
London. Royal Collection.
*Portrait of a Lady in Green. Wood, 77 x 65.
The young woman appears more relaxed, less self-consciously posed and insistent on social standing, than many of Bronzino’s aristocratic sitters. She wears a dress of vivid emerald green, with voluminous upper sleeves and ribbon trim, over a white chemise embroidered with fine stitching (blackwork) round the collar and down the front. The object in her hands, resembling a piece of gauzy fabric, may have been a pair of leather gloves, now rendered transparent with time. This magnificent portrait was probably was acquired by Charles I with the famous Gonzaga collection in 1628. It was sold (as a work of Andrea del Sarto) for £100 in 1651, but recovered after the Restoration. Attributions to Raphael (whose name is inscribed on the back) and to Sebastiano del Piombo are also recorded in old inventories. Recent opinion has largely wavered between Pontormo and Bronzino (although the Ferrarese Girolamo del Carpi has also been proposed). John Shearman (in his 1983 catalogue of Italian paintings in the Royal Collection) tentatively identified the picture with the ‘portrait of a daughter of Matteo Sofferoni’, a ‘very beautiful and highly praised painting’ according to Vasari, which Bronzino painted in Pesaro in 1530-32. Matteo Sofferoni (whose portrait of 1522 by Franciabigio is in Berlin) was a close friend of Bronzino and brother of Dianora Allori, Alessandro Allori’s mother. X-ray analysis has lent support to the Bronzino attribution, revealing pentimenti quite typical of the artist. The portrait currently hangs in the 'King's Closet' at Windsor Castle.
London. Wallace Collection.
Eleonora of Toledo. Wood, 79 x 60.
A replica, sometimes ascribed to Bronzino but probably from his studio, of part of the famous portrait of about 1545 in the Uffizi. The Duchess’s young son is omitted. The portrait may be posthumous, the empty vase on the left possibly alluding to Eleonora’s early death in 1562. Sold by Count Lochis of Bergamo in 1868 for 12,900 francs.
Los Angeles. J. Paul Getty Museum.
Saint John the Baptist. Wood, 147 x 52.
One of the original wings of the altarpiece of the Deposition painted by Bronzino in 1543-45 for the Chapel of Eleonora of Toledo and now in the museum at Besançon. St John is probably an idealised portrait of Duke Cosimo’s father, Giovanni delle Bande Nere. The other wing represented Saint Cosmas (a portrait of Cosimo himself). It was supposed lost, but a panel (74 x 51) in an English private collection has recently been identified as a fragment of it. The Saint John was discovered (by Federico Zeri) in 1948 in the Dudley Wallis collection, London. It was sold at Sotheby’s in 1951 and, after a period in a private collection in Peru, was acquired in 1973 by Getty from Gilberto Algranti of Milan. The flesh parts are somewhat abraded, and paint losses in the blue background and along the bottom edge are concealed by restoration.
Virgin and Child with St Elizabeth and the Infant St John. Wood, 103 x 83.
Signed on the stone in the lower left corner. Another version – almost identical in composition but more brilliantly coloured – of the painting in the National Gallery, London. First recorded in 1898, when it was sold in Milan as a work of Andrea del Sarto. It resurfaced in 1964 at a sale in London and was acquired in 2015 by the Chilean billionaire Alvaro Saieh and his wife Ana Guzmán (founders of the 'Alana Collection' at Newark, Delaware). Bought by the Getty (for an undisclosed sum) in 2019. Exceptionally well preserved.
Lucca. Galleria Nazionale (Palazzo Mansi).
Portrait of Don Ferdinando. Wood, 41 x 31.
Ferdinando (1549-1609) was the fourth son of Cosimo I and succeeded his brother as Grand Duke in 1587. This portrait of him as a boy must date from about 1557-58. There is a version in miniature in the Medici Museum, Florence.
Portrait of Don Garzia. Wood, 42 x 32.
Garzia, the third son of Cosimo, was born in 1547. The portrait is possibly one of the group of portraits of Medici children painted by Bronzino in Pisa in 1550-51. On loan from the Florentine Galleries. There is a miniature replica in the Medici Museum.
Portrait of Don Garzia de' Medici. Wood, 48 x 38.
The plump little boy, Duke Cosimo's third son, was born in 1547. He is dressed in a sumptuous jacket of red silk, embroidered with gold threads and with the collar and cuffs adorned with pearls. He clutches a sprig of orange blossom (a symbol of purity) in his right hand. The curious object on the gold chain – a miniature drinking horn attached to a gold harpy – has been called a rattle, but may rather be an amulet (cornicello) for warding off the evil eye. The portrait is recorded in the Spanish royal collection from 1747. It was given to Bronzino’s pupil Alessandro Allori in old catalogues, but is now attributed to Bronzino or his workshop. It is possibly a replica of the portrait of Don Garzia painted by Bronzino in July 1550 on the occasion of the child's baptism. There is another, apparently slightly later, child portrait of Don Garzia by Bronzino at Lucca.
Madrid. Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.
Saint Sebastian. Wood, 85 x 70.
The saint, half-length, naked except for red drapery round his shoulders, has an arrow in his side and another in his hand. The painting was unknown before 1978, when it was published by Federico Zeri as a work of the minor Florentine Mannerist Jacopino del Conte. It is now considered an early work of Bronzino. It is close in style to the pendentive roundels of Evanglists painted by Pontormo and the young Bronzino in 1526-28 for the Capponi Chapel in the church of Santa Felicita. Its original purpose is uncertain. It was possibly commissioned as a thank-offering for the end of a bout of the plague. Or it could be a portrait of a young man as his name saint. An interesting suggestion is that it could have been a commission from the Compagnia di San Bastiano (a lay confraternity of which Bronzino himself was a member), whose headquarters backed onto the church of the Annunziata. From a private collection in Rieti; acquired by Baron Heinrich in London in 1985.
Cosimo de’ Medici in Armour. Wood, 77 x 59.
A fine replica of Bronzino’s portrait – the original of which is possibly the version in the Uffizi. More than two-dozen other replicas and variants are known. Once in the Gonzaga collection at Mantua; acquired by Baron Heinrich in 1975.
*Andrea Doria as Neptune. Wood, 115 x 53.
Andrea Doria (1466/8-1560) was a famous admiral, Genoese statesman and patron of the arts. He stands before a ship’s mast, draped in a sail and holding an oar (later transformed into a trident). This is not the only portrayal of him as Neptune: in 1529 the sculptor Baccio Bandinelli was commissioned by the Genoese state to erect a monumental statue of him as the sea god. Bandinelli’s colossal sculpture proved difficult to execute and remains uncompleted in Carrara. The Bronzino portrait, which reproduces Bandinelli’s marble almost exactly, may date from the early 1530s. It was among the pictures collected by Paolo Giovio in his villa on Lake Como, and remained in the Giovio family collection until 1898, when it was bought by the Brera.
Milan. Castello Sforzesco.
*Portrait of a Young Man (Lorenzo Lenzi). Wood, 90 x 71.
The youth's deep purple doublet and black sleeves and cap are set off against a deep green background. Identified with the portrait mentioned by Vasari of the young Lorenzo Lenzi, a future Bishop of Fermo, in 1990 (by Alessandro Cecchi in Critica dell'Arte in Toscana). On the pages of the open book are sonnets (now more legible after restoration) by Benedetto Varchi (Lenzi’s teacher) and Petrarch. An early work, once attributed to Pontormo, and probably painted either shortly before or shortly after Bronzino’s stay in Pesaro in 1530-32. Once in the Galleria Rinuccini at Florence. Bequeathed with the collection of Principe Trivulzio of Milan in 1935. Restored (the worm-damaged wooden support strengthened and the paint surface cleaned) for the 2010-11 Bronzino exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi, Florence.
Moscow. Pushkin Museum.
Holy Family ('Stroganoff Madonna'). Canvas (transferred from panel), 117 x 99.
The infant Baptist points to the Christ Child who, standing on a rock, reaches over the Virgin's shoulder to grasp the neck of her dress. Joseph's profile appears on the left. The object under the Virgin's right arm is a large book with a golden clasp. The picture – with its statuesque poses, cool palette and polished surface – is a mature work, dating from the 1540s or 1550s. It is sometimes identified – though without much justification – as the ‘picture of Our Lady’ mentioned by Vasari as painted for the Pistoian notary Ser Carlo di Michele Gherardi. Transferred to Moscow in 1932 from the Stroganoff Museum in St Petersburg.
Madonna and Child with the Infant St John and St Elizabeth. Wood, 126 x 100.
The aristocratic Virgin places her left hand over the hand of the little St John the Baptist, who is clutching lilies and roses. With his other hand, the Baptist passes an apple under the Virgin's arm to the Christ Child. St Elizabeth, the Baptist's elderly mother, appears in profile on the right, holding an open book. The painting is first recorded in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi – a repository in Rome for works of art requisitioned during the Napoleonic occupation. It was sent to Naples in 1800. Originally attributed to Andrea del Sarto, it is listed as a work of Bronzino in an inventory of 1827. Previously very little known, it was recently restored and attracted notice as the subject of an exhibition (December-January 2017-18) at the headquarters of the Intesa Sanpaolo banking group at Turin. It has been considered a very late work (around 1560).
New York. Metropolitan Museum.
*Portrait of a Young Man. Wood, 96 x 75.
The young sitter (three-quarter-length, elegantly dressed in black cap and silk doublet over a white shirt with ruffed collar) poses confidently in the room of a Florentine palazzo, his left hand on his hip and his right resting a book on a stone table decorated with a grotesque mask. This fine portrait has usually been dated about 1535-40. But an attempt – first made by Craig Hugh Smyth and supported by McCorquodale (2005) – to identify it is a self-portrait would suggest a dating before 1530. Another suggestion is that the painting could be the portrait of Bonaccorso di Pietro Pinadori (born in 1502), mentioned by Vasari early in his Life of Bronzino. By 1808 it was in the collection of Lucien Bonaparte (where it was engraved by Prospero Fontana as a portrait of a Duke of Urbino by Sebastiano del Piombo). It was later in aristocratic collections in Paris (including those of the Comte de Pourtalès-Gorgier and Duchesse de Talleyrand-Périgord). Bought by Horace Osborne Havemeyer (the immensely wealthy head of the American Sugar Trust) for $40,000 in 1898, and bequeathed by his widow to the Metropolitan Museum in 1929.
New York. Frick Collection.
*Ludovico Capponi. Wood, 117 x 86.
Once supposed to be one of the Medici, the young sitter was identified as Ludovico Capponi in 1944 on the evidence of a replica of a head included among frescoes by Bernardino Poccetti in the salone of the former Palazzo Capponi in Florence. Ludovico was a page at the Medici court, and he wears his family’s armorial colours, black and white. The cameo or portrait miniature concealed in his right hand, with the inscription sorte (fate), has been interpreted as a reference to his secret engagement to Piero Salviati's step-daughter Maddalena Vettori – a match opposed by Duke Cosimo (Salviati's nephew). After the Duchess Eleonora interceded on the young couple's behalf, the Duke eventually relented, and Ludovico and Maddalena married in 1558. Ludovico was born in 1533, and the portrait was presumably painted in the early or mid-1550s. It was Ludovico’s father (also Ludovico) who commissioned Pontormo and Bronzino to decorate the family chapel in Santa Felicita. In 1816 the portrait was in the collection of Lucien Bonaparte; it later belonged to Baron Seilliere in Paris and John Edward Taylor in London, and was acquired by Frick in 1915.
Nice. Musée des Beaux-Arts.
Christ Crucified. Wood, 145 x 115.
The Crucifixion is not set in a customary landscape but against a grey altar niche. Previously supposed to be a seventeenth-century work, this austere and solemn picture was identified recently (by Philippe Costamagna and Carlo Falciani in the 2010 issue of Revue de L’Art) with one mentioned by Vasari as executed by Bronzino (‘with much study and pains, insomuch as it is clearly evident that he copied it from a real body fixed to a cross’) for Bartolomeo Panciatichi, whose famous portrait by Bronzino hangs in the Tribuna of the Uffizi. It probably dates from around 1540. The picture, which was darkened by old repaint and in quite poor condition, was restored for the 2010-11 Bronzino exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi.
Ottawa. National Gallery of Canada.
*Portrait of a Gentleman (Pierantonio Bandini?). Wood, 107 x 83.
The middle-aged bearded man, portrayed sitting at a table on which stands a blue statuette of Venus, was once supposed to be Luca Martini, the engineer, and later Cosimo I. Recently, the portrait and its pendant, the Portrait of a Lady at Turin, have been identified with the portraits of Pierantonio Bandini and his wife mentioned by Vasari. Bandini (born in 1514) was a wealthy Florentine banker living in Rome. The portrait may date from around 1550-55. Once in the Berlin collection of Herr Eduard Simon. Acquired by the museum in 1930.
Oxford. Ashmolean Museum.
Portrait of Don Giovanni or Don Garzia. Wood, 66 x 53.
Giovanni, Duke Cosimo’s second son, was born in 1543. Garzia, the third son, was born in 1547. To judge from the sitter’s age, the portrait dates from the early or mid-1550s. The elaborate carved and gilded frame, set with eight small oval panels in grisaille, is of sixteenth-century Florentine manufacture, but may not be original to the painting. The attribution to Bronzino has not always been accepted (Berenson called it a copy; McComb ascribed it to Salviati). Fox-Strangways bequest, 1850.
‘Noli Me Tangere’. Canvas, 291 x 195.
Painted in about 1561 for Giovan Battista Cavalcanti’s chapel in the Florentine church of Santo Spirito. Sent to Paris by Vivant Denon during his visit to Italy in 1811-12 to collect pictures for the Musée Napoleon. The composition is loosely based on a famous cartoon by Michelangelo, from which Pontormo painted a picture in 1531 for Alfonso d'Avalos, Marchese del Vasto. The women to the right were criticised in Borghini’s Il Riposo (1584) for their irrelevance. On the hill to the right, the angel appears to the Holy Women at the entrance to the tomb. The city of Jerusalem is seen in the distance, with the hill of Calvary on the left.
Portrait of a Young Man. Canvas (transferred from panel), 99 x 79.
The unknown young man holds a female statuette (Fame or Victory?), and the picture was once supposed to be a portrait of the sculptor Baccio Bandinelli by Sebastiano del Piombo. It has been recognised as a work of Bronzino since the mid-nineteenth century. Acquired by Louis XIV with the collection of the German banker Everhard Jabach.
Holy Family with St Anne and St John. Wood, 133 x 101.
The Christ Child holds a bird; St John offers an apple and has his baptismal bowl and reed cross beside him on the ground. There is another, signed version at Vienna. The Louvre version has sometimes been thought to be the original, but is more probably a later replica of the Vienna picture, dating perhaps from the 1550s. It was donated to the museum in 1902 by the Comte Albert de Vandeul.
Philadelphia. Museum of Art.
*Portrait of Cosimo I as Orpheus. Wood, 94 x 76.
This strange portrayal of Cosimo as the mythical musician and passionate husband – so different from his formal state portraits – probably dates from the late 1530s or early 1540s, and may have been commissioned as a present for the Duchess Eleonora. It is thought to be one of the earliest representations of the Duke. His naked pose appears to have been inspired by the famous Torso Belvedere – an antique marble statue, which has been in the Vatican since the early sixteenth century. The dog is Cerberus, the ferocious guardian of the underworld, which Orpheus charmed with his singing. Technical examination has revealed that adjustments (such as the removal of drapery and changes to the shape of the viol’s peg box and the position of the bow) were made at a late stage to make the portrait even more erotic. Given to the Philadelphia Museum by Mrs John Wintersteen in 1950.
Pisa. Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Reale.
Eleonora of Toledo with Her Son Francesco. Wood, 116 x 94.
Bronzino's portrait of 'the Lady Duchess and the Lord Don Francesco' is recorded in the 1553 inventory of Duke Cosimo's art works at the Palazzo Vecchio. Francesco, the Medici heir, was born in 1541, and the portrait was probably painted in 1549-50. On the evidence of court letters, it was intended as a gift for Antoine Perrenot de Granville, a Burgundian statesman, who – like his famous father Nicholas – served the Spanish Hapsburgs. The painting at Pisa, while often held to be Bronzino's original, appears to have been executed with considerable workshop assistance. There is another version (much damaged and restored) at Cincinnati.
Pisa. Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri.
Nativity. Wood, 390 x 267.
Santo Stefano is the church of the Knights of Santo Stefano, an order, founded by Cosimo I in 1561 to defend the Mediterranean from Moorish pirates. Bronzino’s picture is over the second altar on the left. Dated 1564 (old style); it is known from letters that Bronzino completed the picture in February 1565. Construction of the church did not begin until April 1565, and the picture was initially kept in the old church of San Sisto. It is in Bronzino's late, High Mannerist style. The composition is crowded with muscular shepherds in stylised and complex poses. The foreshortened poses of three of the naked boy angels holding up the scroll derive from Fra Bartolommeo's Pala Pitti (painted more than fifty years earlier for the Florentine church of San Marco). Vasari, the architect of the Santo Stefano, greatly admired the picture, which he said was painted ‘with so much art, diligence, drawing, invention and beauty of colouring, that he could not be excelled’. Vasari painted the Stoning of Stephen as a pendant for the Nativity and also designed the frames for the two paintings.
Portland (Oregon). Art Museum.
Madonna and Child with St John. Wood, 102 x 80.
Sometimes ascribed to Bronzino (with datings ranging widely from about 1540 to 1560) and sometimes to an unidentified follower. Another version was in Russia (Pavlovsk Castle). Undocumented before 1950, when it was acquired by Kress from Contini Bonacossi.
Prague. Narodni Galerie.
Portrait of Eleonora of Toledo. Wood, 59 x 46.
Probably the portrait of Eleonora that is documented as being delivered to the Medici villa at Poggio a Caiano on 31 October 1543. Eleonora displays her wedding ring and, compared with the portraits at Florence and Berlin, her face still has a youthful freshness.
Rome. Galleria Nazionale (Palazzo Barberini).
*Portrait of Stefano Colonna. Wood, 125 x 95.
An inscription on the base of the column identifies the imposing dark-bearded man in armour as Stefano Colonna II; another on each side of the helmet gives Bronzino’s name (abbreviated to BROSI) and the date of the portrait (1546). Stefano Colonna di Palestrina (?1490s-1548) was a condottiere, who commanded Florentine militia during the siege of the city in 1529 and later, from 1541, served Duke Cosimo. He was a patron of Florentine literature, an amateur poet and (like Bronzino) a member of the Accademia Fiorentina. The portrait was probably painted in Florence (and not Rome, as once supposed), and it is very likely the portrait that was exhibited at the funeral ceremony held for Stefano Colonna in the Florentine church of San Lorenzo in March 1548. It was acquired by the gallery in 1896 with the Colonna-Sciarra collection. The splendid original giltwood 'trophy' frame is carved with motifs of all manner of weaponry and armour (swords, shields, helmets, corselettes, axes, morning stars, cannon, powder horns, ramrods, trumpets, drums and banners).
Rome. Galleria Borghese.
Saint John the Baptist. Wood, 120 x 92.
Signed bottom left. Sometimes identified as a portrait of Duke Cosimo’s favourite son Giovanni. If this identification is right, the picture cannot be early, as once supposed, but must date from about 1560-61. Giovanni, who was made a cardinal in 1560 and Archbishop of Pisa in 1561, died at the age of only nineteen in 1562. The picture has been in the Borghese collection (with an attribution to Bronzino) since 1610, when a payment is recorded for a new frame.
Rome. Galleria Colonna.
Venus, Cupid and a Satyr. Wood, 120 x 250.
Venus, lying naked on a bed, holds the bow and arrow she has taken from Cupid out of his reach. On the right, a grinning satyr with Pan pipes leans over the end of the bed. Signed in the lower left corner. Mentioned by Vasari as painted for the wealthy Florentine banker Alamanno Salviati (‘a Venus with a satyr beside her, the Venus being truly the goddess of beauty’). The context of Vasari’s reference suggests that the picture was painted around 1553-54 (after the Resurrection of 1552 in SS. Annunziata and before Bronzino’s departure for Pisa in 1554). The picture is related, both compositionally and thematically, to the Venus and Cupid executed by Pontormo around 1532-33 from Michelangelo’s cartoon for the Florentine banker Bartolomeo Bettini (now in the Accademia, Florence). It hung in Salviati's bedchamber in his palazzo (formerly the Palazzo Portinari) on the Via del Corso in the Santa Croce quartiere of Florence. Three other allegorical pictures (Night, Dawn and Venus and Cupid) were painted for the room by Michele Tosini (Michele di Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio) from Michelangelo's designs.
The four paintings were sent to Rome in 1699, and entered the Colonna collection as part of the dowry of Caterina Zeffirina Salviata, who married Fabrizio Colonna in 1718. At some later date, Bronzino's naked Venus was ‘dressed’ from breasts to thigh. The added drapery was left on during a restoration of 1994, when a thick layer of yellowed varnish was cleaned off, but was removed a few years later.
Rome Palazzo Doria-Pamphili (private apartments).
Portrait of Giannettino Doria. Wood, 120 x 80.
Once believed to be a portrait of the sculptor Baccio Bandinelli by Sebastiano del Piombo. Roberto Longhi thought that the portrait might be by Salviati. Giannettino, the nephew and heir of Andrea Doria (the famous admiral, whose portrait by Bronzino is in the Brera), was killed in the Fieschi conspiracy of 1547. If by Bronzino, the portrait must have been painted in Rome in 1546-47.
Rome. Accademia di San Luca.
St Andrew; St Bartholomew. Wood, 159/155 x 90/93.
St Andrew kneels with his X-shaped cross. St Bartholomew is flayed and kneels on a pile of his own skin. His muscles and veins are accurately observed, as in an anatomical illustration. These two damaged panels are believed to be fragments of an altarpiece painted by Bronzino for the della Grazie Chapel in Pisa Cathedral. Vasari described the picture as showing ‘Christ naked with the cross, and around him many saints, including a flayed St Bartholomew’. It was commissioned on 19 February 1554 and delivered on 21 March 1556. As early as 1588, its condition had deteriorated so badly that it was replaced by a copy by Aurelio Lomi. Until fairly recently, it was assumed that the original was completely lost. Old repaint was removed in a 1985 restoration. Much of St Andrew's head and part of St Bartholomew's profile are destroyed.
Rome. Palazzo del Quirinale.
Story of Joseph. Tapestries.
Ten of the tapestries from the set of twenty designed by Bronzino, Pontormo and Salviati in 1545-53 for the Sala dei Duecento in the Palazzo Vecchio were transferred here in 1882. They normally hang in the large central Sala del Bronzino (formerly Sala delle Battaglie). The tapestries in Rome are in poorer condition than those that remain in Florence. Some are much restored and rewoven, and the colours have inevitably faded. Following conservation treatment, they were the focus of an exhibition held in April-June 2010 in the Gallerie di Papa Alessandro VII at the Quirinale. In 2015, they were temporarily reunited with the ten tapestries in Florence for exhibitions held in Rome, Milan and Florence.
St Petersburg. Hermitage.
Apollo and Marsyas. Canvas (transferred from panel in 1865), 48 x 119.
The story of the musical contest between the god Apollo and the satyr Marsyas is told in Ovid's Metamorphoses. On the right of the picture, the contest is judged by King Midas and the goddess Minerva. In the centre, Apollo flays the defeated Marsyas. In the background, Apollo punishes Midas, in the presence of Minerva, for preferring Pan's 'barbaric notes' by attaching asses' ears to his head. On the left, Midas's servant, who had been sworn to secrecy, whispers the truth about the king's ears into a hole in the ground. The reeds that grew there repeated the servant's words.
On the strength of an inscription on an engraving made in 1562 by the Venetian printmaker Giulio Sanuto, the picture was previously ascribed to Correggio. It was identified in 1913 by Hermann Voss as the harpsichord cover mentioned by Vasari and by Borghini as painted for Guidobaldo della Rovere. It is an early, very Pontormesque work. Bronzino worked for the della Rovere at their country seat of Imperiale, near Pesaro, in 1530-32. This painting and the portrait of Guidobaldo in the Pitti Palace are the only pictures known to have survived from the Pesaro visit. By the late seventeenth century it was in the collection of Conte Horazio Arquinto; acquired by the Hermitage in 1865 with the collection of Duke Antonio Litta of Milan. The panel, originally hexagonal, had been made up into a rectangle, with additions to its upper and lower corners, before its transfer to canvas in 1865. The branch that covers Marsyas’s genitals is presumably a later addition. The colours appear clearer and cooler since a restoration in 2016-20, which removed yellowed varnish and darkened repaint.
Another version was published in 1995 by John Spike (April issue of the FMR Art Magazine). Formerly in a New York private collection, it was auctioned with an attribution to Bronzino at Hampel, Munich, in September 2015. A double-sided sheet in the Louvre has red chalk studies for the nude figures of Marsyas playing the pipes and King Midas judging the contest.
Portrait of Cosimo I (?). Canvas (transferred from panel in 1872), 118 x 88.
The youthful sitter holds a gold medal depicting a winged woman (Cosmographia?) on two spheres. He points with his left hand at a view through the window of a steep mountain and a fire on the horizon. Acquired at the sale of the collection of King Wilhelm II of the Netherlands in 1850 as a portrait of one of Cosimo’s sons. More recently claimed as a portrait of Cosimo himself, painted shortly after he became Duke of Florence in 1537. Previously ascribed to Alessandro Allori. Restored in 2019-20, when layers of old varnish were removed and numerous old retouchings were refreshed.
San Francisco. Young Memorial Gallery.
*Portrait of an Elderly Lady (Maria Salviati?). Wood, 127 x 100.
The open Book of Hours is inscribed with words from Psalm 67 ('To sing: God have mercy on us ...'). The sitter, once thought to be Vittoria Colonna, has more recently (1960) been identified as Maria Salviati (1499-1543), granddaughter of Lorenzo the Magnificent, widow of Giovanni delle Bande Nere and mother of Cosimo de’ Medici. The attribution to Bronzino dates back to 1885 and, until very recently, had not been doubted. However, the identity of the sitter and the authorship of the portrait have both now been questioned by Robert B. Simon, who calls the sitter simply 'an unidentified widow' and the painter 'an at-present anonymous contemporary of Bronzino'. (See his essay in the 2013 conference volume Agnolo Bronzino: Medici Court Artist in Context, edited by Andrea M. Galdy). The portrait was acquired from the Maragliano family by the 3rd Baron Berwick, who was British ambassador to Naples in 1824-33. It was later owned by Domenico Campanari of Toscanella, who published a pamphlet on it in 1850, attributing it to Michelangelo. It was acquired by Samuel H. Kress in 1929 from the dealer Alessandro Contini Bonacossi and has been at San Francisco since 1930.
Sydney. Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Cosimo de’ Medici in Armour. Wood, 86 x 67.
There are more than twenty-five versions of this portrait. Most appear to be workshop replicas or old copies, but the versions in Florence (Uffizi) and Sydney have been accepted as autograph by recent critics. In contrast to the version in the Uffizi, which is bust-length and has a plain dark background, the one at Sydney has been extended to waist-length, adds a tree stump (sprouting laurel) inscribed with Cosimo’s name at bottom right, and uses a heavy blue curtain as a backdrop. The Sydney version has been identified with one mentioned by Paolo Giovio (the humanist physician and historian, who formed a famous portrait museum in his villa on Lake Como) in a letter of 30 July 1546 thanking Duke Cosimo’s steward, who had sent him the portrait. It remained with Giovio’s descendents until 1846, when it was bequeathed to a Giorgio Orchi. Then, after passing through the collection of Prince Napoleon Bonaparte of France, it was for many years in the possession of Alfred Morrison and his descendants in England. Sold at Christie’s in 1990 and briefly on loan to the National Gallery, London. Acquired by the Sydney museum in 1996.
Toledo (Ohio). Museum of Art.
Cosimo de' Medici in Armour. Wood, 101 x 78.
One of many versions. Most are bust-length, but the Toledo portrait is one of a number of waist-length examples. (Another, probably the best, was acquired in 1996 by the Art Gallery of New South Wales at Sydney, and there are others at Kassel and the Metropolitan Museum, New York.) Donated to the Toledo museum in 1913 by its founder, the glass magnate Edward Drummond Libbey. The quality is not usually considered high enough to warrent an attribution to Bronzino himself.
Turin. Galleria Sabauda.
*Portrait of a Lady (Cassandra Bandini?). Wood, 109 x 85.
The middle-aged sitter, wearing a housecoat (ropa) of red silk over a yellow-gold silk dress, is seen to the knees, seated in an X-frame chair embellished with grotesque carvings. She holds a Book of Hours in her right hand. She is turned to the left, while the middle-aged man, presumably her husband, in the companion portrait at Ottawa is turned to the right. The sitters, formerly sometimes supposed to be Cosimo I and Eleonora of Toledo, have been recently identified as the banker Pierantonio Bandini and his wife, Cassandra de' Cavalcanti. The two portraits were displayed together for the first time in the 2010-11 Bronzino exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi. They are mature works, probably dating from the early 1550s. The Turin portrait was acquired in 1827 when the Marchese Durazzo sold his collection to the King of Sardinia. The attribution to Bronzino is traditional and has always been accepted (except by Berenson who proposed Pontormo).
Turin. Museo Civico.
Saint Michael the Archangel. Canvas, 94 x 60.
St Michael weighs two souls, represented as miniature humans. He lifts the light soul from the scale pan, while Satan, sprawled on the earth, reaches up to claim the heavy, sinful soul, which clings desperately to the archangel's thigh. The picture, painted on canvas, was possibly a church standard. It was acquired by the museum in 1966 as a work of Pontormo, but reattributed to Bronzino in 1973 (by Luciano Berti in his L'Opera Completa del Pontormo). It has been dated as early as 1526-28, when Pontormo and Bronzino were working together in Santa Felicita.
Vienna. Kunsthistorisches Museum.
Holy Family with St Anne and St John. Wood, 124 x 99.
On the book held by the Virgin, the word ‘Isaiah’ is visible in faint Hebrew letters. The Christ Child holds a bird and the infant Baptist an apple. Signed on the rock beneath the Christ Child’s left foot. Generally dated to the middle or late 1540s. Sometimes identified with the Holy Family mentioned by Vasari as having been painted by Bronzino for the physician Francesco Montevarchi or with one of the two Holy Families painted by Bronzino for Bartolommeo Panciatichi (one is in the Uffizi), but there is no hard evidence for either identification. It came to Vienna in 1793 in an exchange of pictures with the Uffizi. There is a second version, almost identical in size and composition, in the Louvre.
Portrait of Cosimo I in a Doublet. Tin, 18 x 14.
The names of the sitter (‘Cosmus Medices Flor. Dux II’) and artist (‘Bronzini’) are inscribed on the back. One of the best of some forty versions of this portrait, which shows the Duke middle-aged and in civilian dress. Bronzino’s original has not been securely identified. According to Vasari, it was painted when Duke Cosimo was forty, ie. in 1559-60. However, one of the replicas bears the date 1556. Transferred to Vienna in 1780 from the Archducal collection at Ambras.
Washington. National Gallery.
Holy Family. Wood, 101 x 79.
The Holy Family is joined by the infant John the Baptist (who looks directly at the viewer while pointing at the Christ Child behind him) and his elderly mother St Elizabeth (who leans on a staff while gazing up at the Christ Child with an expression of wonder). This well preserved panel was acquired by Samuel H. Kress in 1937, from the dealer Contini Bonacossi, as a work of Pontormo. It is now attributed to Bronzino as a very early work, or regarded as a work of collaboration (with Pontormo responsible for the figure of St John). It is usually dated around 1526-28, when Pontormo and Bronzino were working together in Santa Felicita, and it is possibly the picture described by Vasari as painted for Ludovico Capponi. A study for the figure of St Elizabeth is preserved at the Uffizi. The drawing – broadly executed in black chalk or charcoal – was formerly attributed to Pontormo, but is now also usually given to Bronzino.
Portrait of a Young Woman with a Child. Wood, 100 x 76.
The expressionless young mother, sumptuously dressed in a turban and gown of red brocade and with a girdle of precious stones, puts her hand on the shoulder of her pale, fair-haired little boy. The sitter, probably a member of the Medici court, remains unknown. X-rays have revealed that she was originally shown alone, with her right hand placed on her dress, and that the child was added later, perhaps after an interval of several years when she had become a mother. Usually dated about 1540. First recorded only in 1873, when it was in the collection of the Princesse de Sagan (later Duchesse de Talleyrand-Périgord) in Paris. Acquired in 1905 by Peter Widener of Pennsylvania, whose son Joseph bequeathed it to the National Gallery in 1942.
Allegorical Portrait of Dante. Wood, 127 x 120.
The book is open at the introduction to Canto XXV of the Paradiso. Once ascribed to Vasari or artists in his circle (Battista Naldini or Gerolamo Macchietti), but sometimes now given to Bronzino or his workshop. The prototype for the composition was a portrait of Dante by Bronzino mentioned by Vasari, which was one of three half-length portraits of Florentine poets commissioned by Bartolomeo Bettini to fill lunettes in one of his bedrooms. A badly damaged canvas in a Florentine private collection (included in the L’Ombra del Genio: Michelangelo e L’Arte a Firenze exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi in 2002) has recently been identified by Philippe Costamagna as Bronzino’s original. The Washington picture was sold at Sotheby’s (as a work of Vasari) in 1953; acquired by the Kress Foundation in 1956.
Eleonora of Toledo. Wood, 86 x 65.
One of half-dozen or so similar portraits of the Duchess in her last years. The bust-length version in Berlin is often regarded as the original, and the Washington portrait, which is three-quarter length and shows both hands, is ascribed to Bronzino’s studio. The provenance (formerly given as 'Conte Sturani, Bologna') has now been traced back to William Beckford's collection at Bath. The picture was inherited by Beckford's son-in-law, the Duke of Hamilton, and sold at the Hamilton Palace auction in 1882. Acquired by Contini Bonacossi in 1926; it remained in his stock for almost thirty years, and was bought by Kress in 1954 as part of his last purchase of paintings from the dealer.